All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Wrap Up: #TheReadingQuest Challenge

So today is the 10th of September, the last day of #TheReadingQuest Challenge. It’s almost lunch time here and I don’t anticipate reading another book for this challenge so I’m going to go ahead and wrap up what I read and my points.

I chose the Mage character path after some consideration – it was the path that I thought I could best tackle based on the books I had on my TBR pile and I’m happy to say that I read all five books required to tick that off as complete. I also read books that counted towards 4 side challenges which brings me to 9 books read in total over the 4 week period of the challenge. Here are the books I read for the challenge:

So I read 8 physical books and one eBook. The five books I read for the Mage character path were:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Read the first book in a series 352p
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Read a book set in a different world 383p
Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Read a book based on mythology 352p
Akarnae by Lynette Noni – Read a book that contains magic 436p
Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Read a book with a one word title 599p

And the four side challenges I completed:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Read whatever you want 438p
City Of Ashes by Cassandra Clare – Respawn: Read a book you previously dnf’d 411p
Fire by Kristin Cashore –  Expansion challenge: read a companion novel 384p
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Grind challenge (500+ pages) 659p

I really enjoyed participating in this challenge. Sometimes my TBR bookshelf is so big that I just lack focus and can’t decide what to read and occasionally I just end up not picking up anything. Creating a specific, focused TBR pile before the challenge and having it sitting there made it much easier and I found I had renewed enthusiasm for tackling books on my shelf that I might not have actually even looked twice at when looking for something to read.

For this challenge, 7 of the 9 books I read have been sitting on my TBR shelf for months. Some for even years. I think I bought the first few Mortal Instruments books when I was pregnant with my youngest son and he’s about to turn six this month! I also read one library book and one book that I purchased because of this challenge – I’d read Graceling and after completing that I bought Fire and Bitterblue immediately. Now I’m kind of annoyed because as you can see in the pic above, my copy of Graceling is an eBook and I really want a physical copy to match the other two in the series.

I also tried new things during this challenge – people have long been singing the praises of the Illuminae Files to me but I had not made the plunge because I wasn’t sure if they’d be my thing. I picked up the first one at random from the library but without this challenge to assign it to, it’s possible I’d have just returned it unread because I have so many other books sitting around. Now I’ve read the first two (in a matter of a couple of days) and am eagerly awaiting the third book, which still doesn’t come out for months.

I shouldn’t need an excuse to tackle books from my TBR but sometimes I just do need something to push me to choose something that’s been published for a while versus something that has just been, or is about to be released. It’s made me realise just how many books I buy and hoard without reading. And once I do finally tackle some of them through something like this, I remember why I bought them in the first place and wonder why the heck I let them sit on a shelf unread for so long. So I’m trying, trying harder to incorporate books I’ve owned for a long time and not read yet, into my monthly TBR piles. I’m aiming to start small, one book that I’ve owned for 6+ months but I found that balancing review copies with books for this challenge during the four weeks had the added bonus of keeping my mind refreshed.

Once again, a huge thank you must go out to Aentee from Read At Midnight for creating and hosting this challenge. I’ve had a fabulous time participating and I would love to do something like this again in the future, should it ever happen. Also big thanks to CW from Read, Think, Ponder who created the amazing artwork for the challenge and allowed people to use it to make their own character cards, etc. Here’s my final board:

I’m going to keep an eye on it. There are books I have that fit quite a few of these categories and even though the challenge is ending today, I might use these categories here as motivation for pulling future reads off my TBR shelf.

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Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire (Graceling Realm #2)
Kristin Cashore
Gollancz
2010, 384p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

She is the last of her kind… It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised “Graceling” has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read “Graceling” to love “Fire.” But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next. 

I loved this book.

I read Graceling recently and immediately ordered both Fire and Bitterblue. The second book, Fire only features one common character with Graceling and actually takes place well before Graceling but I just love this world. I honestly wish there was a dozen books to read from Kristin Cashore set in this world. It’s just amazing.

So in this book we have Fire, who is what is loosely termed as ‘monster’. Monsters can be any species and they look physically similar but they are…..more. Just amazingly more. Brilliantly coloured. So you might have a glossy, perfect, purple horse. That’s a monster horse. Or a stunningly beautiful blue monster kitten. Fire’s father was a monster (in more ways than one) and the offspring of monsters and humans are always monsters. In Fire’s case she’s so amazingly beautiful that she renders almost everyone who comes into contact with her dumb with her beauty. Strangers will profess love for her or want to marry her. They’ll want to touch her. In some cases, they will also want to hurt her. Her hair is one of her monster features, being an incredibly bright myriad of red, orange and pink hues. She keeps it mostly bound up in a headscarf so as not to distract people and seeks to cover herself as much as possible. She learned early that people will not always take no for an answer and she has to protect herself.

Fire can also slip into people’s minds and manipulate them. Her father was incredibly cruel and she has always taken care never to use her power to hurt people. She may redirect their interest or seek to gentle their thoughts if they think to hurt her or even throw themselves at her and she loathes doing even that. Fire is a young woman in heartbroken conflict about her gifts and her desperation to never use her power to hurt anyone. Her father enjoyed hurting people and was corrupted by a desire for power. He helped ruin the previous King and tried to kill the King’s youngest son Prince Brigan, a warrior with abilities far beyond his young years, many times. But now her father is dead and although the Prince Brigan looks at Fire with a deep distrust, he does not seem affected by her monster beauty. His mind is a closed book to her, strongly guarded and she need not fear his reaction to her. What he does do is bring out her guilt about her father.

Fire is no Katsa – she can’t physically fight, she’s not even particularly strong. She has some pretty severe mental hang ups as well about her abilities and about being a monster. She was raised in relative isolation with few friends and people are mostly in awe of her or scared of her and what she could do. Her mind is a mess of guilt and loathing both of herself and her gift. She has daddy issues for days that just get bigger and bigger the further you get into the novel. Since I finished this book I read a lot of criticism about Fire, that she was pathetic and weak and not worthy of being a main character. But I actually appreciated that about her – that she began the book isolated and unwilling to explore what her gift could do and as the book progressed, she learned. She realised she could be useful without being cruel, that she could use her gift without it meaning that she would turn into her father. I actually found her quite likable and when she was away from her home, she really began to grow into herself. She made friends, connections with guards, princesses, children.

There is a love story in this and though it’s understated, it’s seriously perfect. I adore it. It just has so many things that I find enjoyable to read – I will admit that I’m a total sucker for a story where there’s distrust and possibly even dislike that has to be overcome. A bond takes time to develop and this book does this with careful, sweet scenes that bring two people closer together. They have so much in common – both are conflicted about the uglier side of what they can do and fear that it’ll be reason for each other to look at them in horror. I loved their quiet conversations, the way in which they opened themselves up to each other. I also appreciate Kristin Cashore’s open mindedness about relationships and the focus not necessarily being on marriage.

This is such a fabulous world. Loved Graceling, I love this and now Bitterblue will be moved up my TBR pile because I can’t get enough.

9/10

Book #152 of 2017It actually wasn’t until I finished this book that I realised I could also count it towards my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge. Although the second book in the Graceling Realm series, Fire is more a companion to the other two books. It’s set in the same world but well before the other two and features only one common character.

My updated character card. 10ts added for another book completed and 38pts added for pages read. With just three days left in this challenge now, I hope to finish one more book.

Thanks as always to Aentee from Read At Midnight for hosting and CW from Read, Think, Ponder for the artwork.

 

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Review: Akarnae by Lynette Noni

Akarnae (The Medoran Chronicles #1)
Lynette Noni
Pantera Press
2015, 436p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

With just one step, sixteen-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes—literally.

Dreading her first day at a new school, Alex is stunned when she walks through a doorway and finds herself stranded in Medora, a fantasy world full of impossibilities. Desperate to return home, she learns that only a man named Professor Marselle can help her… but he’s missing.

While waiting for him to reappear, Alex attends Akarnae Academy, Medora’s boarding school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts. She soon starts to enjoy her bizarre new world and the friends who embrace her as one of their own, but strange things are happening at Akarnae, and Alex can’t ignore her fear that something unexpected… something sinister… is looming.

An unwilling pawn in a deadly game, Alex’s shoulders bear the crushing weight of an entire race’s survival. Only she can save the Medorans, but what if doing so prevents her from ever returning home?

Will Alex risk her entire world—and maybe even her life—to save Medora? 

Okay so originally I was going to read another book for this last category for my character path for #TheReadingQuest Challenge. But then I thought about this book and it’s actually been on my TBR shelf for longer and I saw one of the follow ups on social media recently so I thought I would swap the other book out and use this one instead. Although the people of Medora don’t use the word ‘magic’ for what they can do and some of the things that can happen, for Alexandra who is from Earth, it is definitely magic.

Alex has just turned 16 and is being dropped off at an exclusive boarding school while her parents go on an 8 month archaeological dig where she won’t be able to contact them. Instead of opening a door to the Principal’s office, she opens a door to literally another world, almost a parallel Earth but with differences. She is almost immediately confronted by someone who assures her that he’s been waiting for her and that together they will rule the world. It seems she’s stepped onto a school campus and so while she waits to figure out how to get back to her own world, she enrolls at Akarnae Academy, a school for the gifted. Although she struggles at the start, confused as to why the mysterious procedure has enrolled her in high levels of certain courses, Alex soon starts to settle in at Akarnae. She makes two solid friends who are with her every step of the way and it seems that the mysterious Library of the college is not only much more than it seems, but it has also Chosen her in some way. In fact Alex’s entire appearance in Medora seems to have a specific and important purpose and some of the choices she makes will be incredibly important. Actually the whole future of Medora could hinge on them.

On the whole, I found this quite an enjoyable story. It’s a little bit like Narnia – a young girl opens a door and finds herself in a completely different land and there are Things Happening. I didn’t mind Alex as a main character. She certainly has the ability to be beaten and to stand up and take it over and over again. She deals pretty well with her foray into a foreign world and doesn’t go into hysterics or constantly whine about wanting to go home. She does have moments of wondering if she’ll ever be able to, or will she see her parents again, which was normal but she didn’t spend the entire time thinking about ‘why me?’ and stuff like that. I liked the way she threw herself into her new school subjects at Akarnae, even when they seemed way above her abilities and the teachers were brutal. It actually seemed like a really fun school – unorthodox but fun. And the technology ideas were quite interesting. I enjoyed a lot of the secondary characters as well. I also really liked the idea of Medora and the set up and also Medora’s history. I found that really interesting and would’ve liked even more about that, which I suppose will come in future books as Alex herself learns more, especially in regards to her role for the future.

There were a few small quibbles – nothing major, the writing at time felt a bit simple and the dialogue could be a bit clunky. I think at times it was really like the friendship between Alex, Bear and Jordan felt a bit forced, like they were still getting to know each other but sometimes their interactions felt like they’d supposedly known each other for years. It didn’t always come off as natural and at times the jokes and ribbing felt a bit too much too soon. It’s also quite long but it’s not really jam packed with happenings, so a lot of it is kind of just repetitive stuff at the school and Alex continually getting hurt and going to the school’s medical ward. At times it felt as though the book kind of lost its way and meandered a bit. However these weren’t enough to turn me off at all and I’m quite keen to read the next book in the series, Raelia to see where it goes from here.

6/10

Book #151 of 2017

Akarnae completes my character path of Mage in #TheReadingQuest Challenge! It’s my 7th book read for the challenge so far. Hoping to fit one more in before it ends on the 10th.

And my updated character card. Another 10pts for a book completed taking me to 80exp total and 43 added to my health which is now at 328pts.

Thanks to Aentee from Read At Midnight for hosting this challenge and also CW from Read, Think, Ponder for the artwork.

 

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Review: The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song Of Achilles
Madeline Miller
Bloomsbury Publishing
2012, 352p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. 

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear. 

I remember when this book came out. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2012 and I probably bought a copy in either late 2012 or early 2013. And it’s basically sat on my TBR bookcase ever since. I recently saw someone mention it in a Booktube video I was watching and so when I signed up for #TheReadingQuest Challenge and saw the topic for a book based on mythology, this book was fresh in my mind and became my choice.

In high school I only ever did the basic compulsory history in grades 7 and 8 which focused on {whitewashed} Australian history and our role in the major wars (Boer, WWI, WWII and Vietnam). Although I did elect Ancient History for my year 11 preferences, it clashed with another course I’d chosen and I wanted to do that course more so I didn’t end up doing Ancient History. So I’ve pretty much done no foreign history, no mythology studies, nothing. The closest I’ve come was having to read parts of Homer’s The Odyssey in Advanced English, which revolves around Odysseus’ journey home after the War of Troy. I haven’t even seen Troy the movie. My knowledge of the War of Troy is basically just gathered from pop culture references such as the Trojan horse and the “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” etc. I know the basics of why the war began and how it ended and I know of Achilles because of the heel thing. But honestly? Going into this book I was pretty much a clean slate.

Patroclus is an awkward Prince, not really a physically impressive child. In the beginning of the novel his father takes him to press suit for Helen, daughter of the King Tyndareus. There are many suitors there and a young man named Odysseus speaks eloquently to say that all the men should allow the woman to choose her own husband and that the others will swear not to declare war on Tyndareus or on Helen’s new choice of husband. And that the suitors there should ever defend her husband, should anyone ever take her from him (which will be important much later). Patroclus is only a child of 9 or 10 and is therefore not really a contender. After returning back to his father’s palace he is involved in an incident that leads him being exiled to the court of King Peleus, the father of Achilles.

Achilles is everything that Patroclus is not, he has greatness stamped upon him and prophecies foretell him being the greatest warrior there ever was. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends Patroclus and names him his special companion, which exempts Patroclus from the training and regime of the other boys fostered at King Peleus’ court. Achilles trains in private and will undergo a specific education, fitting of his prophecy. As they age, the two boys grow closer and closer, the lines of friendship blur into something more, enraging Achilles’ mother Thetis, a sea-goddess who disapproves of Patroclus. After Helen flees to Troy with Paris, that old pact is invoked…and Odysseus comes looking for the world’s greatest warrior as well as Patroclus, who was there the day they all swore their loyalty. After going to great lengths to avoid being conscripted in this war at his mother’s insistence, Achilles finds himself exposed and they sail for Troy.

I had no expectations when I began reading this and other than what I mentioned above, I didn’t know the details of the War itself so I was able to just enjoy the story. It’s incredibly compelling, whether it’s the growing relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, this mismatched pair who find something in each other that they both need or the ins and outs of this battle that lasted like, a decade. There are several other prophecies at play once the battle begins, which is why Achilles’ mother tried to prevent him from joining the men. I wasn’t aware of the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, or the character of Hector so quite a lot of what occurred was a surprise to me. I did know going in that it was a tragedy and I was curious how this would play out given the book is told in the first person from the point of view of Patroclus, who does not survive until the end of the War of Troy.

The interpretation of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus has differed many times with some, such as this book, presenting it as a lasting romance. I haven’t read The Iliad other than a passage or two for analysis in high school but I’m aware that there is debate about whether or not the relationship is a homoerotic one or a simple warrior one. It seems that it was common for boys to experiment – they were raised with each other, trained with each other, slept together but that most of them still married or had salt/spear wives and had children. I enjoyed the journey for Achilles and Patroclus in here, finding friendship as boys and it developing into something where they couldn’t be without each other. Patroclus is often required in order to persuade Achilles, who is tormented about his prophecies and whether to choose glory or life. It’s interesting how Achilles is prophesised to be the greatest warrior ever, he’s the one they sought for battle, believing without him they wouldn’t or couldn’t win and yet….he often comes across as stubborn, petulant, sometimes even childish. He seems unable to cope when things don’t go his way and often ignores doing the right thing in order to ‘win’ or be seen as not backing down. In contrast, Patroclus who was presented as weak physically, unremarkable, perhaps even following in his simple mother’s footsteps, grows to learn interesting things and seems to view things around him in a clearer, more levelheaded way. Of course he wasn’t built up to be a great warrior from birth either, so it was interesting to think about nature versus nurture in relation to Achilles also.

I really enjoyed this. So much so that I wouldn’t mind finding a few other retellings – I’m not going to subject myself to Homer, even if it makes me a Philistine.

8/10

Book #148 of 2017

The Song Of Achilles was read as part of my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge, created and hosted by Aentee @ Read At Midnight, with artwork and illustrations by CW @ Read, Think, Ponder. It counted towards my character path, ticking off the category of read a book based on mythology. With that done, I only have one more category to go before I will complete my character path – read a book that contains magic. For this I have chosen A Gathering Of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. With only 5 days until the challenge ends, I anticipate completing that book and hopefully one other, which will most likely be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which was my middle square free choice read.

Here’s my updated character card. 10ex points added taking me to 70 total and another 35pts added to health for 352 pages read taking me to 285pts.

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August Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 20
Fiction: 17
Non-Fiction: 3
Library Books: 1
Books On My TBR List: 7
Books in a Series: 11
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 12
Male/Female Authors: 7/13
Kindle Books: 5
Books I Owned or Bought: 11
Favourite Book(s): Illuminae Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Least Favourite Books: Two Cabins One Lake by Shaye Marlow
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 10

So August was probably my best reading month in quite a while. I read 20 books and 2 of them were around 600p each so were almost double the size of an average book. I had a couple of 5-star reads and quite a lot of 4-star reads so the quality of reads was also really high.

I attribute my higher than usual number of reads to joining #TheReadingQuest in August. So far for that challenge I’ve completed 6 books – four from my character path and two side quests. I’m probably not going to get through all the books I had set aside for this quest (it ends on September 10th) but I need one more book to finish my side path and then I would like to read at least one, hopefully two from the side challenges.

I’m really guilty of seeing all of these books and going “Oh I must have that book!”, buying it and then it sits on my shelf for ages, sometimes years because, other books. I have the attention span of a gnat sometimes when it comes to books and I think blogging is kind of a part of the problem because there are so many new books released all the time and it’s so easy to get distracted by the shiny new ones and forget about the ones you already have. No one can read every book released every month, there are always ones that are going to get pushed aside but not because you don’t want to read them. Simply because you don’t have enough time to read them! I have books I bought years ago that I’m still super keen to read. And that’s why this challenge has been so good……it was in part to help diminish books from the TBR pile, so I made my pile up from books that I already owned on my shelf and one library book. So for the challenge I have now read five books from my shelf that have been sitting there for varying lengths of time, including a couple that have been there for about five years. It’s done a lot to renew my enthusiasm for some of these books – one book was from an old series and now I want to catch up and read the rest. I need something like this every month, something to both push me out of my comfort zone but also get me to embrace the books I already own. It’s been really good and I’ve enjoyed it. Of course it’s also led to me making more book purchases but it’s okay. I’m totally allowed because I read some off my TBR shelf…..right?

Going to make a tentative September pile here….

The top 2 are books that I plan to read for #TheReadingQuest Challenge….. A Gathering Of Shadows by V.E. Schwab will complete my character path and The Hate U Give is my free choice read. The bottom three are review books. And….there are also the books that I’ve recently purchased:

The Wrath & the Dawn I came across somewhere and I ordered this really pretty hardback from overseas. I also ordered The Rose & the Dagger in the matching hardback but it’s not here yet. I have heard good things but I just saw these versions and thought they were really pretty. And I like the names. I ordered Fire and Bitterblue which are books 2&3 in the Graceling Realm series. I read the first book in August and loved it. I also bought the small version of King’s Cage today – I’d been holding off on buying it until this one came out so it would match my versions of Red Queen and Glass Sword. And I picked up Take Three Girls by 3 Australian women YA authors – Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood. Been looking forward to this one for a while and it’ll probably be the first one that I read. I’m not sure if I’ll read all of these this month (haha, probably not – I’ll need a future #TheReadingQuest Challenge to get me picking them up off my shelf!) but I’ll definitely read some. And probably the next in the Mortal Instruments series as well.

If you’ve read any of the books above, feel free to tell me which and whether or not I should push them to the top of the pile. Hope you all had a fab reading August.

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Review: City Of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City Of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2)
Cassandra Clare
Walker Books
2008, 411p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation. 

Even though this book is old, here’s a ****SPOILER ALERT***** for key plot points from the previous book, City Of Bones.

I remember that about 5 or 6 years ago, I bought the first 3-4 books in this series for an event with Cassandra Clare in Melbourne. I ended up missing that event because my oldest child was sick. I read the first book so I’d know what was happening and I started the second one but didn’t get very far before I abandoned it for something else. Not because I really disliked it but I think at the time I was just a bit annoyed by the “cliffhanger/reveal” at the end of the first book. So when I saw the “Respawn” side challenge for #TheReadingQuest, I looked at my shelf and saw this book. The Respawn challenge is to read a book you previously DNF’d. And so I figured I might as well attempt this again.

It’s been 5 years, so I did read my review of the first novel just to refresh my memory but mostly what I remember was the reveal about Jace and Clary which so obviously seems a red herring. So in this book they’re all angsty because they’ve just found out they’re supposedly brother and sister, even though they were basically falling in love. Awkward. They are kind of tiptoeing around each other, not sure how to act. How do you act, upon discovering you have a surprise sibling….the kicker being that sibling is your crush.

Reading this, I noticed just how much the ‘love triangle’ takes up. Obviously Clary and Jace as a couple are out for now. So the focus switches in a way, to Clary’s friend Simon, who seems to decide to step up and make some decisions etc. Clary just kind of sits back and is like ‘alright’ when Simon kisses her or declares her his girlfriend and part of me gets it. She’s had a big shock, she can’t feel that way about Jace anymore and perhaps it’s just easier to go with the flow for a while. But on the other hand I was rolling my eyes. Like this is something you should be a part of. She loves Simon, but she’s not in love with him. But I guess her feelings are pretty confused, her mother is still in a coma, she doesn’t seem to have any female friends to hash this out with. Clary is pretty passive when it comes to her own feelings.

There’s some bad stuff going on,  the rebel Shadowhunter Valentine is raising demons (or getting someone else to raise them) as he has some cup thing that I’ve forgotten about from book #1 that allows him to command them. His aim is to steal a second Mortal Instrument in this book and he also plans to destroy the Clave. Because Jace is his son, the Inquisitor doesn’t trust him at all – she keeps imprisoning him thinking that he’s Valentine’s spy, despite the fact that Jace keeps swearing that he isn’t. So Alec, Isabelle, Clary and also Simon in a way, spend a lot of time running around either attempting to free Jace or hiding Jace so that he can’t be imprisoned again.

I was not sure I’d like this – I had already DNF’d it once but perhaps the time was enough for me not to be so annoyed about the deliberate ways to keep Jace and Clary apart because I actually found myself quite entertained. So much so that I dug my copies of the 3rd and 4th books in the series out of an overflowing bookcase in order to add them to my pile of books to read in the next month or two. I’m way behind, I honestly don’t even know how many books are in this series and it’s various spin off series’ now.

This series has attracted a lot of controversy, most notably arguments that Clare has “borrowed” elements from a lot of other series’ and she’s also been sued by an author who claimed that this series was too similar to her own. I haven’t actually read pretty much any of the works that Clare is said to have borrowed from. I’ve never read Harry Potter and Clare got her “beginning” in Harry Potter fanfiction. I’ve never read the series of the author that filed suit against Clare either. Her past in fanfiction appears very dubious for sure.

Overall – this was okay. I enjoyed it enough to finish it and I kind of want to see where the series goes. I’m not sure how long the whole Jace and Clary are brother and sister thing is going to drag out but hopefully not for too much longer. To be honest I kind of like Magnus and Alec the most I think. That’s an interesting dynamic and I wouldn’t mind reading more about them.

7/10

Book #146 of 2017

City Of Ashes was read as part of my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge, created and hosted by Aentee at Read At Midnight. The awesome artwork is by CW at Read, Think, Ponder. This ticks off the side challenge: Respawn. Read a book you have previously DNF’d.

Time to update my character card:

Another 10 experience points for completing a book and another 41 health points gained for the pages read.

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Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)
Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Allen & Unwin
2016, 659p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The saga that began with breakout bestseller Illuminae continues aboard Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station commander’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon, Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

I have to admit, after finishing Illuminae and picking this up I was a bit disappointed when I realised that it wasn’t straight continuing on with Kady Grant and everyone – instead the action moves to the place Kady and those ships from Illuminae were attempting to reach – Jump Station Heimdall so that they can get the word out about what happened on Kerenza.

But – I should’ve known that after Illuminae it would be impossible to be disappointed. This novel introduces the reader to two more sassy teens – Hanna, the daughter of the person basically in charge on Heimdall and Nik, a resident who is part of a very notorious family that are mostly up to no good. Nik is Hanna’s contact for something that she occasionally requires and although he flirts with her, she has a boyfriend, who belongs to the Heimdall security team.

Continuing on from Illuminae in an attempt to leave no survivors from the Kerenza invasion, an elite BeiTech team invade Heimdall and take it hostage and they’ll be ready if the Hypatia carrying Kady Grant ever limps to the station. There area also drones dispatched to take out the Hypatia, which is a research vessel. After the BeiTech crew storm Heimdall, take hostages and start killing people, Hanna goes rogue. Raised by a Commander father who thought that war games and military strategy were both a) a good way to pass the time and b) bonding experiences, Hanna decides to stage a little operation of her own, taking out soldiers where she can and linking up with a few others that don’t want to be caught – including Nik.

Like Illuminae, Gemina is presented as a file comprised of documents, security footage analysis, memos, recordings, emails, chat sessions etc that take place during the invasion of Heimdall. There is a lot of stuff about wormholes which hey, I don’t understand at all but I grasp the danger of things going wrong. Also there’s a kind of alien parasite aboard the Jump Station that are being used for something but are basically abandoned after the invasion and they’re seriously creepy. It’s a very full on story, it felt even more heart stopping that Illuminae – so many different threats from so many different directions and several countdowns that keep everything feeling very fast-paced, like the impending doom is impossibly close. It’s a great atmosphere – this book is almost 660 pages and I plowed through it in a day. I know the format means that pretty much none of the pages are completely filled with text but it’s still a lot to get through and I just couldn’t put it down.

Hanna is pretty badass – she has been roleplaying military strategy and the like with her dad for years and she gets the chance to put it into serious practice here. She’s studied martial arts as well and knows the ship. A new format included here are Hanna’s journal entries which often comprise of sketches (done by author Marie Lu) and they are amazing! I really enjoyed her personality, both before the invasion and even more so after. She’s bored living on Heimdall and occasionally enjoys pushing some boundaries, living a bit. It’s what brings her in contact with Nik, who is kind of a reluctant member of a futuristic Mafia-style family. He’s inked up, like the rest of the clan and they’re involved with some of the seedier things on the Jump Station. Nik enjoys flirting with Hanna and their interactions are quite funny and I think he interests her too even though she has the ‘perfect’ boyfriend in Jackson. At face value, Nik and Jackson would be polar opposites – but Nik’s character definitely has hidden depths.

I said in my Illuminae review that I knew within the first 100p that I would need Gemina right away and I was right. Unfortunately I have to wait until March I think, of next year to get Obsidio, the third installment of the series. This one ends in a way that just leaves you needing more. If someone asked me which one was better,  Illuminae or Gemina, I’m not sure I could say. They’re both amazing and Gemina takes the story of Illuminae and expands the world and the danger.

I’m so glad I joined #TheReadingQuest Challenge because sometimes I just need something like that to give me that push outside of my comfort zone. I have a lot of books to read and it’s true that I do often tend to pick the ones that are familiar genres or shorter reads, just because I know what to expect. But in doing this challenge I’ve remembered how much I do enjoy sci-fi/fantasy novels when I read them and this series, set in space, is definitely one of the few futuristic space dramas I’ve ever read and I love them.

10/10

Book #141 of 2017

I’m counting Gemina towards my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge! Given it’s huge page count (659p) I’d be silly not to count it toward the Grind side challenge – read a novel over 500p. In my original TBR I had The Diviners by Libba Bray earmarked for this category but that was before I read Illuminae and decided I’d also be reading Gemina during the challenge timeframe. I figure if I have a book that counts towards a category, I might as well use it!

And my updated character card! Another 10pts earned for a new book completed taking me to 50 overall experience points. Also 66 points added to my health points taking me to 209pts total.

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Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Allen & Unwin
2015, 599p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.

The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra’s planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it’s too late.

I’ve never read anything by either Amie Kaufman or Jay Kristoff before this – both somehow authors that I’ve always had on my radar but just through circumstance, haven’t read. I had seen so much hype and love for this (and the 2nd book in the series, Gemina) but it wasn’t until I saw it on a display shelf at my local library recently that I grabbed it on  whim to see what all the fuss was about. When I signed up for #TheReadingQuest Challenge, I figured that Illuminae was a perfect book to include in that. I could’ve used it for any number of categories really! This challenge has been so good for pushing me to finally read certain books, be they ones already on my shelves or ones that I’ve just been meaning to check out for ages.

Here’s where my problem lies – the problem of how to review this book. It’s quite a difficult book to review but firstly I’m just going to say that: It. Is. Absolutely. Brilliant.

It’s a futuristic epistolary-style novel where all the information is imparted to the reader by way of a large dossier constructed on a hostile invasion of an illegal mining operation taking place on a small planet. It’s comprised of letters/emails, personal journal entries, communications circled aboard spaceships and also viewings of things like security footage.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two teens on that small, invaded planet named Kerenza who have just broken up and are engaged in hostilities. During the invasion they escape their school together but are then rescued onto different ships – Kady onto the science research vessel Hypatia, Ezra onto the battlecarrier Alexander both of which responded to the distress calls coming from Kerenza during the attack. A third ship, Copernicus also responded and now all three carry refugees and information, heading for Jump Station Heimdall where they can relay that information about the attack. All three are also being pursued by dreadnought Leviathan, a ship belonging to the company that authorised and carried out the invasion with the sole purpose of destroying all three ships carrying refugees and leaving no survivors. Where things get complicated is that Alexander was damaged slightly in a battle with the Leviathan and although its artificial intelligence system is self-repairing it seems to be malfunctioning slightly and well, going rogue. Long story short: it’s up to two teenage kids to save as many people as possible and get the limping ships back to Heimdall so that their story can be told.

I think this is the sort of book where either the format will work for you or it won’t. It really, really worked for me and I thought it was a brilliant way to present the story. It gets more and more complex as the story goes on and AIDAN (the Alexander’s artificial intelligence program) begins communicating as well. There are lots of different formats and everything looks like it would if you were reading a file comprised of this information – different handwriting, fonts, files, layouts, email addresses, hacked ID’s etc. There are diagrams of the ships and probably a million other things that I haven’t listed here. Some of my favourites were the analysis of the security cam footage taken from usually the ships and transcribed with humorous detail.

Illuminae has pretty much something for everyone – it’s a crazy space adventure with lots of danger and mystery. Underpinning it all is the connection between Kady and Ezra, who have split for reasons not detailed at the beginning of the book. Their views toward each other are somewhat hostile (Kady to Ezra mostly) but evolve as they reconnect and also begin to realise the seriousness of the situation they’re in. As bad as it seemed in the beginning, it gets much, much worse and both of them play crucial roles in understanding what is happening and their romance is a big motivation for them both. I absolutely loved both Kady and Ezra – their personalities are so well displayed, even through the mediums the authors have used in order to tell the story. And this is such a smart, clever, intricate story – you don’t even realise how clever it is at first. It’s so much more complex and rich than it appears at first glance and the amount of work that must’ve gone into constructing it must be phenomenal. The details is incredible, right down to computer errors, log-ins, just…..everything. I picked up this book late Thursday afternoon and read 100p before going out to dinner. On my way I stopped in at my local bookshop and picked up Gemina because I knew already from that 100p I’d read that I would absolutely 100% need to have Gemina standing by the second I finished this (and I was right).

Even if you think you won’t really like this, try it! I wasn’t sure it was going to be my sort of thing (hence why I grabbed it from the library) but I was absolutely hooked from the first page and now I’ll be buying my own copy of this one to have on my shelf. The third novel Obsidio comes out next year and I would imagine a re-read will be in order before it’s released.

10/10

Book #140 of 2017

Illuminae was read as a part of my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge, created by Aentee @ Read At Midnight. The fantastic illustrations are the creation of CW from Read, Think, Ponder. It ticks off the third category on my Mage pathway – Read A Book With A One Word Title.

Here’s my updated character card. 10pts earned for completing another book taking me to 40 experience points and 60 points earned for pages read.

 

 

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Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Kristin Cashore
Gollancz Books
2008, 352p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life. Yet she remains defiant: when the King of Lienid’s father is kidnapped she investigates, and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced man whose fighting abilities rivalled her own?

The only thing Katsa is sure of is that she no longer wants to kill. The intrigue around this kidnapping offers her a way out – but little does she realise, when she takes it, that something insidious and dark lurks behind the mystery. Something spreading from the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king…

I’ve heard some pretty amazing things about this series and I remember the excitement when the third novel, Bitterblue was published. I snapped it up during an iBooks sale ages ago for YA books that were first in a series and it’s sat on my iPad ever since.

Katsa is almost a form of the King’s justice – her Grace is a maiming or killing power discovered accidentally when she was a child. She’s worked for years to hone her skill so that she doesn’t just kill everyone she touches and her uncle, the King of their nation often sends her out to reprimand his subjects that have displeased him. Katsa is an orphan, was raised to be comfortable but hasn’t experienced much affection. She holds herself apart from most people other than her cousin, the King’s son and heir and a few key people. Katsa spends her spare time as part of an underground movement helping people, perhaps to help with some of the guilt she feels over doing things for the King. When they rescue someone from a neighbouring Kingdom, Katsa meets a young man with mismatched eyes that indicate he is also Graced. He’s a brilliant fighter and surprises her by reappearing in her life.

Prince Greening Grandemalion of Lienid, aka Po asks to train with Katsa while they look for information for who kidnapped his grandfather. Po’s Grace is slightly more complex than it first appears and the two of them put on sparring matches that entertain many. It’s only after Katsa gets the strength to break from the bonds that her uncle has over her that they set out to solve a mystery of a one-eyed King and investigate a perculiar power.

There’s a lot of female empowerment in this novel. Katsa is seriously skilled at fighting and there’s probably a rare situation that she cannot fight her way out of. She cares nothing for dresses or doing her hair and instead prefers practical clothes that allow her to move freely. She’s trapped by her uncle, as children who are Graced are often at the mercy of their rulers, used in any way that benefits that monarch. Katsa doesn’t enjoy the tasks he sets for her at all and constantly tries to find creative ways around inflicting damage on people who are just trying to protect their loved ones, or who have redressed their mistakes in other ways.

Po is fully supportive of Katsa and all that she feels that she needs in order to be free and I loved how he didn’t want her to give herself to him, to become his wife if she didn’t want to. In fact he was quite happy to give himself to her however she would take him. Katsa, who has been owned in a way, by the King, has no desire to ever marry and be owned by yet another male. She doesn’t ever want children. She reiterates this throughout the novel several times and the ways in which two different suitors react to her claims is marked. Few people understand Katsa and her desires, her thoughts and her feelings but Po gets her. As the youngest son in a large tribe (I think he has 6 older brothers) he has little responsibility and will most likely never become heir or King and doesn’t seem very interested in living a traditional life. His Grace does cause quite a lot of conflict between him and Katsa – in fact Po is the one person where Katsa is sort of at a disadvantage and I also understand her feelings on finding out what his Grace actually entailed. But at the same time I really liked the dynamic it created between them, that Katsa who was quite closed off, didn’t have that really with Po.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s another one where I only own the first book and now I have to go out and buy 2&3! I loved the characters – Katsa and Po are perfect, together and separately and their adventure is both intriguing and full of danger and suspense. They rescue a lovely little person and I’m looking forward to hopefully catching up with those three characters in the future. This was good fun and worth every bit of the hype I’ve heard surrounding it.

8/10

Book #139 of 2017

Graceling is part of my involvement in #TheReadingQuest Challenge, hosted by Aentee @ Read At Midnight with all the cute artwork created by CW @ Read, Think, Ponder. It’s my second category on my Mage pathway ticked off – Read The First Book In A Series.

My updated stats! 10 more experience points gained for finishing and another book and 35 more health points for 350pages.

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Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Victoria Aveyard
Orion Books
2015, 383p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. 

I bought this book way back in February on the recommendation of an author friend of mine and it’s sat on my shelf ever since. I was actually glad to have an excuse to read it – in signing up for the challenge I tried to include books that I feel fit the overall theme of a fantasy/quest type reading challenge, particularly given the character path that I took (Mage). I don’t always gravitate towards fantasy, my reading is significantly dominated by contemporary general fiction and romance.

Mare is a “red” (meaning she has red blood) and lives in relative poverty in a small village. Her three older brothers have been conscripted and soon Mare will be too when she reaches her 18th birthday. Only her younger sister will escape the fighting, having a coveted job sewing for Silvers. In a society where Silvers are special, privileged and wanting for nothing, the Reds fight their battles for them and are kept far down the chain.

All that changes when a chance meeting with a stranger leads to a job for Mare and from there, she’s revealed to have exceptional abilities that she should not have. Silvers are gifted with abilities – controlling fire, water, earth, reading minds, exceptional strength. Reds don’t have these gifts (part of the reason they’re considered lesser) so Mare is an anomaly, something that threatens the very structure of society.

I enjoyed quite a lot about this book even though the core of it is certainly nothing new. But there were elements of it I found refreshing, such as the structure of the gifts the Silvers possess and how they’re generally family dominant. They’re gifted with only one particular ability and train to harness it. Mare is significantly behind when her ability is discovered and is tossed into a rigorous training and learning regime, with her newness to her ability being tempered by her raw talent. Mare is powerful and different, her gift manifesting in a slightly different way than usual, perhaps a hint of her otherness. She’s idealistic, desperate for a cause but I really liked that she used the small bargaining power she had to better her family, to attempt to improve things for them. I thought that her family were very interesting and wish they’d been around for more of the story. Her father in particular is quite an interesting character.

This is a bit of a love triangle with Mare torn between two princes – the one the royal family has decided to wed her to in order to keep her close and his older brother, the heir. Despite the fact that Mare seems to want to connect with her seemingly sweet and idealistic prince, she can’t help but be drawn to his brother, who has had duty and expectation drummed into him. I’m never a big fan of love triangles (I also have a habit of picking the wrong one….. so often!) but this one wasn’t too bad to be honest. It didn’t feel like a love triangle so much because she was forced into an engagement with a person she didn’t know and she wants to feel loyalty to him, given she’s supposed to be marrying him and it seems they share similar ideals and wants. I wasn’t really into this prince throughout the story, I have to admit I preferred the heir but despite the ending of this particular book I’m not sure what the endgame is.

The first part of the book feels a bit slow but I enjoyed the pacing past the halfway mark and the ending was explosive and unexpected. I am definitely going to read the next book (I don’t own the next 2, which is probably a good thing as I will finish this challenge before purchasing them I think) because I’m quite keen to see what happens next for Mare and where the rebellion goes.

7/10

Book #138 of 2017

 

Red Queen is part of my involvement in #TheReadingQuest challenge hosted by Aentee @ Read At Midnight. The awesome artwork is by CW @ Read, Think, Ponder. I am working on the Mage path and Red Queen ticks off the category of Read A Book Set In A Different World.

Here are my updated stats! All characters start with 10 EXP and 10 HP. I gained 10 Experience points for completing my first book and 38 health points (1pt per 10pages read).

Next up: Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

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